How does Chris Reifert find the time to deliver back-to-back Autopsy records in 2022 and 2023 while releasing new albums this year for Static Abyss and Siege of Power? The co-founder of death metal (he played drums on Death’s Scream Bloody Gore) seems to be hitting a creative streak in terms of output, but what about the quality of the art? Static Abyss sauntered in a death-doom comfort zone on their latest LP, and album number ten from Autopsy does the same but retains the punk spirit that made the band such an influential outfit in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
As is often the case these days in death metal, you can expect Side A to be the stronger showing. Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts starts in a flurry of wild bloodlust with the rough punk of ‘Rabid Funeral’ packaged as a grotesque metal assault. Listen to the slimy tremolo guitars. Do they make you smile as much as the primitive skank beats? Reifert’s gluttonous rasp might produce a smirk on your face. This is the type of transgressive music that asks not to be taken seriously, yet it also leans on classic Black Sabbath and rocks like a gore-obsessed piece of stoner metal. Longtime fans will raise an eyebrow at the prog rock bass work here. Clearly, Greg Wilkinson rediscovered Master of Reality during the making of this record. Geezer Butler’s imprint is all over this song and ‘No Mortal Left Alive’. Both offer a welcome reprieve for those of us bored by the predictability of death metal.
There’s no doubt that some of these cuts will become live favourites. ‘Throatsaw’ is as satisfying as its song title suggests. Neither will you escape its gory chorus: “Throatsaw / A privilege to fall by its grace / Throatsaw / Your blood paints a mask on my face.” Autopsy are always at their most assured when they play death metal like crust punks. Yet their foray into slower territory is just as effective on ‘Well of Entrails’, where harmonic minor riffing gives way to a Celtic Frost doom prophecy before speeding off into the night in a whirl of smoke. The title track calibrates the two styles with ease and reminds you why Autopsy are so easy to like.
The prog rock angle is a new one for the band, and they might want to explore more of this on their next record. Here, the moments of experimentation are too sporadic, and that’s understandable when your hardcore fans want more of the same. ‘Bones to the Wolves’ and ‘Marrow Fiend’ pass by like a light breeze – you don’t notice their existence until the chill pinches your neck. ‘Toxic Death Fuk’ is punk masquerading as death metal, just like the latest album from Go Ahead and Die. There’s nothing to dislike, but there’s little to excite you once the effect of the first five songs wears off. Recognising other artists on Side B will keep you engaged, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. ‘Bones to the Wolves’ bases its main riff on Slayer’s ‘South of Heaven’; ‘Death is the Answer’ uses the same vocal line as Death’s ‘Suicide Machine’; ‘Coagulation’ is pure Black Sabbath worship. They’d be more enjoyable if we hadn’t heard them on so many albums over the last thirty years.
Album number ten is not much different to album number nine. It could be from 1992 or 2022, and that’s the problem.
Release Date: 27/10/2023
Record Label: Peaceville Records
Standout tracks: Throatsaw; No Mortal Left Alive; Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts
Suggested Further Listening: Acephalix – Theothanatology (2022), Dripping Decay – Festering Grotesqueries (2023), Vacuous – Dreams of Dysphoria (2022)